It may be hard to believe, but Justin Marks believes the growth of Trackhouse Racing “needs to be managed.”
The timing of his own statement Wednesday (June 30) wasn’t lost on Marks.
It came roughly half an hour after his team announced it had purchased all of Chip Ganassi Racing’s NASCAR assets, effective at the end of the 2021 season.
But it was also delivered five months into Trackhouse Racing’s short existence in the NASCAR Cup Series.
“I know that might sound weird in this moment because we’re only 19 races in and announcing this transaction,” Marks told reporters in a Zoom call. “But I don’t want to get over my skis either.”
Trackhouse, a team co-owned by International pop star Pitbull, made the move to purchase CGR’s NASCAR operation after it ultimately failed to bid on four team charters, Marks said. Charters are the equivalent of a team franchise that guarantees a car an entry in a Cup race. Thirty-six charters are currently in the Cup Series.
Earlier this month, Kaulig Racing purchased two charters, including one Trackhouse was leasing, from Spire Motorsports.
The Associated Press reported this week those charters likely sold for $10 million each.
The Sunday following the news of Kaulig’s purchase Marks said his team – which had been open about interest in expanding – would compete with or without a charter in 2022.
At that point Marks and Ganassi were already deep in negotiations. The process had started with a cold call from Marks to his former Xfinity Series team owner, a call Marks had “worked up the courage for a few weeks” to make.
When he finally made the call, Marks became the first person in 20 years to offer to purchase his NASCAR team, according to Ganassi, who noted his team wasn’t even up for sale.
“He came back with an offer that required my attention,” said Ganassi. “It came together very fast. It was very easy. Obviously, we’ve worked with Justin in the past, and it seemed like a good fit. … There’s a lot of new blood coming into the sport right now. … It’s somewhat bittersweet, you look back on 20 years of your life and something you’ve been doing. But it’s time for new blood and time for a change. And I’ve always accepted change, and with a positive attitude.”
Marks, 40, and Ganassi, 63, were able to keep their negotiations under wraps for roughly two months, with it being finalized last week.
As of now, Trackhouse will field Daniel Suarez and an undetermined second driver in 2022.
“I think that there’s a lot of unknowns coming around (the Next Gen Car),” Marks said. “We have to learn a lot about what operationally it’s going to take to field the Next Gen car successfully. And I have a lot of ambition and a lot of passion and vision for this company. But I’m not going to risk the momentum we have right now and so many good things ahead of us by trying to do too much too quickly. I think we could grow beyond two (cars). But that’s by no means in the imminent plans for the company.”
For Marks, the purchase of Ganassi’s assets was about “so much more than a charter acquisition.”
“This is investment in the entire enterprise,” Marks said. “It was always the vision of Trackhouse to go through this process of establishing itself in a sport in a responsible way. And it’s why this year we’re working with (Richard Childress Racing), the way that we’re working and just being very intelligent about our capital outlay, and about the investments that we make. And this was an opportunity to be able to make an investment in something that can be a foundation for decades to come. … There’s a lot of processes and IP and things in place over (at Ganassi) that have been developed for a long time that are going to be really, really valuable to us. … It’s just kind of looking at looking at everything and asking ourselves, ‘What at Trackhouse is the best move that we can make to set us up intelligently and responsibly for the future?’ And this was it.”
Marks said the plan is for Trackhouse to operate out of Ganassi’s shop in Concord, North Carolina in 2022 and to look to the future after that.
In recent weeks Marks has expressed a desire to field Trackhouse out of a shop in downtown Nashville, where Trackhouse’s entertainment division is based.
While Marks’ acquisition of Ganassi’s NASCAR operation is the biggest development of silly season so far, it’s just the latest domino to fall in terms of the “new blood ” of team ownership that Ganassi mentioned.
Last week, Hendrick Motorsports announced that NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon would be stepping into the role of vice chairman of the team. That move makes the 49-year-old Gordon the No. 2 official in the organization behind the team’s founder, 71-year-old Rick Hendrick.
While it hasn’t been made official, multiple reports have Brad Keselowski, 37, as having finalized a deal to move to Roush Fenway Racing as a driver and minority owner. Team founder Jack Roush turned 79 in April.
“It’s time for someone else to take over,” Ganassi said. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years, going every weekend … for 20 years. This will give me an opportunity to turn the RPM down a little bit and take a look at it from another perspective and help make this ‑‑ help Justin with his vision.”